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Coronavirus Concern Has Census Outreach Shifting Tactics

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Los Angeles Test Site Documentation inside the offices of the Burreau in Glendale, California on March 9, 2010. (Lee Roth/Roth Stock Digital Media courtesy of U.S. Census Bureau)

Tomorrow is the official launch of the 2020 US Census. That means it's crunch time for community organizations as they work to engage historically undercounted people, like immigrants, renters, and seniors. Now with a pandemic on their hands, outreach work just got even harder.

"I am concerned in the sense that our population is highly connected," said Isabel Kang, Outreach and Services Manager of the Korean Resource Center, which provides support to immigrants and seniors in Koreatown.

"There are rumors going around that there was this Korean air flight attendant in K-Town visiting every one of those eating places," Kang said. That flight attendant wasn't actually contagious with coronavirus, but concerns like that have prompted the KRC to stop canvassing at senior centers and local business — places at high-risk of spreading germs.

"We're waiting a little bit to see if things get more stable," Kang said, adding that people are generally avoiding group events. "For the last two or three weeks, even my mom hasn't gone to church."

The Korean Resource Center is rethinking outreach to the neighborhood's vulnerable elderly population. (Caroline Champlin/LAist)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the neighborhood around the KRC is one of the hardest to count in Los Angeles County because of a large renter population and households with limited English. Kang said encouraging the Korean community to participate can be challenging even beyond those barriers.

"They don't want to be counted. They don't want to be visible at all. Especially people with family members — or themselves — that don't have the proper papers," Kang said. "So people live their lives in really quiet ways."

Kang is hoping to explain that census participation translates to federal funding and potentially more political representation. But instead of focusing on reaching out in person, the KRC will call and text the 10,000 KRC members.

The center has also developed postcard flyers they're still hoping to give out in person. In Korean and English the card reads, "Census is a seed," and comes with California Poppy seeds taped on the front.

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Tom Hanks And Rita Wilson Say They've Tested Positive For The Coronavirus

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Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson photographed at the Academy Awards this year. He was nominated for an Oscar for his role playing Fred Rogers. Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Trump Restricts Travel From Europe To Try To Stem Coronavirus Pandemic

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President Trump addresses the nation Wednesday night about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic from the Oval Office of the White House. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

All travel from Europe to the United States will be temporarily restricted as a precaution against the growing coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump said tonight in an address from the Oval Office.

The travel restriction, which will last 30 days, does not include the United Kingdom.

Trump said he was taking the following additional steps to help the country weather the economic disruption:

  • Small Business Association will start providing economic loans in effected states and territories to help small businesses. Trump says he's asking Congress to increase funding to the SBA by $50 billion
  • Trump says he'll use his emergency authority to ask the Treasury Department to defer tax penalties for certain businesses negatively impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.
  • He also is asking Congress to provide immediate payroll tax relief.

GO DEEPER:

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Advocates Urge Immigrants to Seek Health Care Despite Controversial Immigration Policy

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A patient picks up a prescription at the QueensCare Health Center in East Los Angeles. Leslie Berestein Rojas/LAist

As the novel coronavirus spreads, health care advocates are encouraging immigrants to go to the doctor if they think they might have coronavirus symptoms.

This urging comes at a time when immigrants may be scared to seek health care. Last month, the Trump administration updated a policy known as the "public charge" rule.

It means officials can deny green cards to immigrants who use or may use specific public benefits in the future, including federal health care like Medicaid.

NO TIME TO AVOID THE DOCTOR

Since a draft of the proposed public charge rule came out more than two years ago, health care advocates say immigrant patients have been scared to get the help they need.

Now with the threat of coronavirus becoming widespread — along with tightened immigration policies — they worry immigrants will avoid going to the doctor if they have symptoms, potentially fueling the virus's spread.

Louisa McCarthy, president of the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County, is urging health care providers to educate immigrant patients about the virus and to encourage them to get treatment if they need it.

“Because the virus doesn’t discriminate,” McCarthy said, “Health care shouldn’t either.”

Southern California Congresswoman Norma Torres and 42 other congress members are asking the Trump administration to reconsider the public charge rule because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Read their letter:

March Madness Is Coming - But Without Fans

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A Spalding NBA basketball drops into a hoop (Photo by Gray Mortimore/Getty Images)

The NCAA has announced that March Madness, its upcoming championship basketball games, will be held without fans, amid coronavirus fears.

The West Regional Sweet 16 games are scheduled to be held at Staples Center in L.A. on March 26 and March 28.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA’s president, Mark Emmert, said his decision was “based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States.”

The organization’s COVID-19 advisory panel released a statement as well, noting the ease with which the virus is spread and its “unfavorable outcome” among older adults.

READ MORE:

Is It Safe To Ride LA Metro In The Age Of Coronavirus?

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L.A. Metro officials say staff is continuing to clean and disinfect all its buses and trains once a day, which happens overnight at their respective divisions. (Courtesy Los Angeles Metro)

Coronavirus concern is everywhere. We're stocking up on hand sanitizer, toilet paper and guns. We're Googling it at a wild rate. Cancel culture has a whole new meaning.

As people navigate the COVID-19 landscape, there have been questions about the safety of taking public transportation.

We talked to county officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Department of Public Health about what they're doing — and what riders can do — to protect themselves and others.

Here's a quick guide:

If you're sick, stay home. That's the single best protection against coronavirus — and any other infectious disease, according to Barbara Ferrer, director of L.A County Public Health.

"[L.A. Metro] can do all the cleaning in the world, but if sick people continue to come out, use public transit, cough on other people, sit closely to other people, stand closely to other people, they'll just continue to [spread infections]," she said. "Not just the possible spread for COVID-19 but the spread of influenza and other kinds of infectious diseases that are in our midst."

Whenever possible, leave about 6 feet of space between you and anyone with a cough or fever. That presents some obvious challenges on public transit, so, if possible, take less crowded buses and trains. That may mean leaving earlier or later for work — which isn't a possibility for some who rely on the system to get to their jobs on time.

Keep your hands clean. Use sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) after touching common surfaces like handrails, turnstiles, handles and poles.

Do less with your hands. Use your hip or back of your hand when passing through turnstiles and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.

GO DEEPER:

UCLA, UCSB, Chapman And Pepperdine Take Action As Coronavirus Shut-Downs Continue

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Powell Library is pictured at the University of California, Los Angeles, in this file photo. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist/KPCC)

Amid coronavirus fears, UCLA, UCSB, Chapman and Pepperdine have taken action to move students out of classrooms or off campus altogether.

UCLA and UCSB announced yesterday that they are suspending in-person classes, effective immediately. Chapman made the same announcement today.

Pepperdine took it one step further, announcing today that in addition to moving classes online they are asking residential students to move out of on-campus housing by 3:00 p.m. on March 15.

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First Death From Coronavirus Reported In LA County

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The first death in Los Angeles County from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel was a woman over 60 with underlying health conditions who was visiting friends in the area. She was not a resident, and she had an extensive travel history over the past month, including a long layover in South Korea.

That announcement was made by L.A. County Department of Public Health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer today at a press conference.

Ferrer said so far there are 27 confirmed cases in the county, which includes three cases reported by the Long Beach Health Department.

Of the six new cases she announced Wednesday, Ferrer said one of them is the county's second presumed case of community spread.

Ferrer said we need to be prepared to see many more cases.

You can watch the full press conference below:

Is My Health Club Putting Me At A Higher Risk Of Contracting Coronavirus?

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(Stock photo by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash)

We’re asking public health officials and experts to answer your questions about the coronavirus outbreak. Please keep in mind that what is known about the virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, is still evolving. This information does not constitute professional medical advice. For questions regarding your own health, always consult a physician.

Health officials are advising the public to limit exposure to events and locations with large groups of people amid the COVID-19 outbreak — aka exercise “social distancing.” Given that advice, you may be wondering what that means for you and your fitness routine. We certainly are.

This question came up in our own newsroom: Do health clubs put you at a higher risk of contracting the virus?

Despite being people-magnets and arguably hotbeds for germs, the answer is no. UCLA Pulmonologist Doctor Russell Buhr says taking precautions will go a long way towards mitigating contraction:

“The risk is not that you’re going to pick up a virus floating around in the air in those situations, but more so that, if sick people are going into them and leaving virus behind and then touching the surfaces and touching your face, et cetera, that’s when you’d be at risk.”

As for saunas, Buhr says viruses tend to get deactivated pretty quickly in hot environments. Here are some helpful sanitary tips from Dr. Buhr:

  • Wipe down gym equipment before and after use
  • Use hand sanitizer in between sets whenever moving on to new equipment
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after your workout

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Harvey Weinstein Sentenced To 23 Years In Prison

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Harvey Weinstein, center, flanked by his defense attorneys, listens during his sentencing in a Manhattan courtroom, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams/AP)

Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein, 67, was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison, the Associated Press reports. This follows his conviction last month for two counts of sexual assault: a criminal sex act on Miriam Haley at his apartment in 2006, and third-degree rape of Jessica Mann in 2013. He received 20 years for the criminal sex act and 3 years for the third-degree rape.

Weinstein was found not guilty of more serious charges in his trial last month, avoiding convictions for predatory sexual assault. That helped Weinstein avoid a potential life sentence. But if he were to serve the full sentence, Weinstein would be over 90 years old when released. He is expected to appeal his conviction.

The Weinstein case has been one of the biggest to come out of the #MeToo movement, following in-depth reporting on his alleged use of his power to sexually assault and harass numerous women.

When he was running Miramax Films, Harvey Weinstein was at the top of Hollywood. He traveled by private jet, stayed at the most exclusive hotels, and won multiple Academy Awards. Yet all the while, according to scores of survivors and the recent trial, Weinstein exploited that power in a coercive and criminal way.

His downfall is remarkable not only for proving that no one is above the law, but also as a repudiation of all of Weinstein’s tactics — including bullying, threats, private investigators and complicit colleagues — that kept his victims silent for so long.

Even as he was sentenced in a Manhattan courtroom, Weinstein's remarks verged on the delusional. “I had wonderful times with these people,” Weinstein said in court before he was sentenced, in the presence of the six women who testified against him. In a rambling speech that seemed more interested in explaining away his (and other sex offenders’) crimes than in asking for leniency, he also said, “I think men are confused about all of this.”

In some ways, that last statement echoed what Weinstein said when the first investigations into his behavior were published by the New York Times and the New Yorker in late 2017. At that point, he said his sin was not that he had assaulted women but that he simply was born at the wrong time. “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different,” he said. “That was the culture then.”

During his trial, Dawn Dunning testified that Weinstein said he would help her acting career if she agreed to group sex with him and one of his assistants. “This is how the industry works,” Dunning said Weinstein explained.

Maybe it did then. With Weinstein behind bars, and facing another trial in Los Angeles in the months ahead, it might not any longer.

In a statement today the District Attorney's office said they are beginning the process of extraditing Weinstein to California. His L.A. arraignment date still hasn't been set, but he will eventually face one felony count each of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force, and sexual battery by restraint, according to the DA's office.

BACKGROUND:

You Can Sling Webs And Meet Superheroes At Disney's New Marvel-Themed Land

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Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure at Avengers Campus. (Disneyland Resort/Marvel)

Last year, Disneyland tried to let fans live out their Star Wars dreams — now, they're helping out everyone who's wanted to be a superhero. Disney's giving you a taste of that feeling with Avengers Campus, their new Marvel-themed land opening this July at California Adventure.

The new area builds on Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout. It features a Spider-Man ride that uses gesture-tracking tech to let you sling virtual webs — with no external devices, just the movement of your wrist. You'll also be able to enjoy superhero photo ops, watch them battle villains, and buy Ant-Man enlarged/shrunken food. There are also plans for an Avengers-themed attraction coming in the land's next phase.

We took an early tour and spoke with the Imagineers to find out everything you might want to know.

GO DEEPER:

World Health Organization Makes It Official: COVID-19 Is A Pandemic

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Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is the Director-General of the World Health Organization said:

"WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction"

Note: A pandemic is a disease that's prevalent over a whole country or the world.

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Why We're Reporting On Life Inside Chinese Immigrant Boarding Houses

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I came to the U.S. from China in 2019 to study journalism at USC. I knew very quickly that wanted to learn more about the Chinese immigrant community here. It didn’t take long for me to learn about the overcrowded, squalid, dangerous and illegal boarding houses that so many of my countrymen live in.

This is especially true in the San Gabriel Valley, which has one of the highest concentrations of Chinese people in the U.S. So I set out to learn more.

I spent about eight months analyzing data pulled from housing and code enforcement records; I also visited boarding houses throughout the San Gabriel Valley, first as a graduate student and more recently while working with the investigative team at KPCC/LAist.

I conducted more than 60 interviews — many in Mandarin — to get a better understanding of how tenants are living, who is benefitting from their living conditions and why substandard conditions persist despite vows by city leaders to crack down. One boarding house tenant told me:

"Look at our life here, living neither like a human or a ghost!"

This is the second in our investigative series looking into housing conditions in Southern California.

PLEASE READ AND SHARE MY SPECIAL REPORT:

MORE FROM | Stuck: Inside California's Housing Crisis:

Coronavirus Q&A: Can The Virus Be Transmitted On Paper, Coins, Or Mail?

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(Stock photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash)

An anonymous listener asked about how the virus spreads: “Are we absolutely positive that this virus can not be transmitted, one, on paper or metal currency [and], two, via postal letters and/or packages?”

Here’s Dr. Shruti Gohil with the University of California Irvine Medical Center, who’s helping lead the effort to prepare the hospital for COVID-19 (edited slightly for clarity):

“You kind of have to ask yourself that question [in the same context as] cold and flu. Do we see things like a cold and flu being transmitted through paper or envelopes? No, we don't. If this virus had this capability of spreading so easily, through things like paper fomites, then you would expect this outbreak to be much, much, much worse than what we are seeing now. I would think this is a good piece of comforting information, [but] you still have to apply common sense. If you took a coin and you know that somebody was sick and they could have a virus on their secretions on that coin, and you get that coin — well, you might acquire the illness if you don't clean your hands or you start touching your face right after.”

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

It’s Wednesday, Mar. 11 And Here Are The Stories We’re Following Today

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(Chava Sanchez / LAist)

Local fears about coronavirus have gone from zero to 60 in record time. LAUSD's board voted unanimously to give its superintendent the power "to take any and all actions necessary" to keep the massive school district running. Coachella and Stagecoach have been rescheduled. And gun shops in the San Gabriel Valley are reporting increased sales, largely to Chinese immigrants who fear riots and race-based attacks.

We're also releasing the second in our ongoing series Stuck: Inside California's Housing Crisis.

  • Thousands of Chinese immigrants live in overcrowded, unsanitary, and potentially deadly conditions throughout the San Gabriel Valley. Yingjie Wang spent months learning how tenants are living, who is benefiting and why these conditions persist.

Meanwhile, the rain has been pummeling most of the city and county, and will likely keep going today. From under our umbrellas and hand sanitizer, here’s what else we’re...

Covering Today:

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The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft.